by Phil Pembroke

NOW the rain has finally fallen in meaningful quantity after nine months of drought, many an angler’s thoughts turn to the transformation of dry barrancos near the coast into healthy flowing rivers. And the fish they might contain.


It is amazing how quickly nature recovers from periods of adversity. Life and death is cyclical and the life of fish is no different to other animals. Take one example near Cartama in the Málaga province. The river Guadalhorce has been a dry riverbed for many months. But it has now sufficiently recovered its flow so anglers can catch fish. Barbel (Barbus), stimulated by the returning current are venturing upstream to spawn.

To catch specimens in excess of three kilos, use free-lined luncheon meat in water less than one metre deep or try sweetcorn on a float trotted downstream.

There are not many lagos (natural lakes) in Andalucía. However, there are plenty of embalses (reservoirs) that have been created by damming rivers to produce electricity and provide water for agriculture and tourism. These contain lots of fish.

Common carp (Cyprinus carpio), pike (Esocidae), and trout are present in large numbers in these reservoirs and are surprisingly easy to catch even for the beginner. The Gypsy barbel is unique to Andalucía. From the lateral line down it is a striking canary yellow or orange. The record weight is 14 kilos.

Any baits and tactics that work well in the UK will work even better over here. But in truth, even the most basic approach will succeed. Sweetcorn and luncheon meat are favourite local baits. Most of the fish here have never been caught before and, pound for pound, fight harder than any fish in the UK.

Even a two-kilo carp will easily straighten out a cheap Spanish Mustad hook. Visiting anglers often express amazement when experiencing for the first time the power and speed of Spanish carp or barbel. For this reason I recommend using specialist Raptor hooks, 15 pound main line and a 12-foot carp rod with a two and a half pound test curve.

While many fish species will be familiar to anglers from the UK, the American largemouth black bass is not. The Spanish Government stocks this hard fighting fish in reservoirs considered too hot for trout. The aim is provide recreational or sports angling for everyone. Anglers only require the mandatory regional angling licence and you are permitted to bag up what you catch.

This fish is quite good eating. Bake in foil on the barbeque or fillet with a salad. Do not forget the chilled wine but stick to beer at lunchtime or you will be dreaming of fish all afternoon instead of catching them.

Here are a few of my favourite waters.

At Vinuela inland of Torre del Mar (N340 east of Malaga) visit the Embalse de la Vinuela. There are fish by the recreational area at the presa (dam wall). The best time is at dusk when carp patrol the fringes. Black bass can easily be caught from the shoreline using spinning lures at this time.

Just inland from the Costa Tropical is the Embalse de los Bermejales. It is one of the best lakes in the region. It has a lot of barbel, and some immense carp. A perimeter road offers easy access right around the lake to locate a suitable swim. The entrance is by the presa.

While it is true northern Spain is most famous for its game fishing, Andalucía’s trout waters are not bad either. Trout waters are classified as cotos de pesca, translated as fishing reserves.

One day per week on these trout-fishing reserves is usually reserved for pesca sin muerte (catch and release). The whole coto is often permanently classified this way. Spanish anglers prefer to bag up so choose the right day and you may have a superb trout river all to yourself.

The fishing reserve on the rivers Frio and Salado at Riofrio offer super trout fishing up to 5 kilos. Trout licences for the whole year, licencia de pesca fluvia, are available from: Alberge de Pescadores de Rio Frio, Riviera de Riofrio s/n 18300 Loja (Granada) Tel, +34 958 32 31 77. There are many roadside restaurants serving excellent local trout dishes. From Málaga drive east on the A92 towards Granada.

An angling licence is cheap and easy to obtain. The angling licence fee costs 39.85 euros. It is valid for five years and covers fishing for trout. An annual licence is also available.

To obtain an angling licence visit any Agencia Medio Ambiente. This is the Spanish regional government office for the environment. Take along your passport or driving licence (photocopies are accepted).

Many waters safe to fish are just a stone’s throw from the popular coastal holiday resorts. But if you venture a little further inland you will experience near virgin lakes and magnificent scenery.

Tips and Rules

You can fish from one hour before sunrise to one hour after dusk, all year round.

Fish during the week when most waters are deserted. At weekends and public holidays they are used for jet skiing and swimming.

Be warned, it gets hot inland during July and August. So take lots of water, a brolly for shade, a wide hat and the strongest sun block available.

¡Buena pesca!

Phil has been writing about his experiences fishing all over Spain during the last 15 years. His latest book, The Essential Guide to Coarse Fishing in Spain, is published by Santana.

57 COMMENTS

  1. Good old Phil clearly knows nothing about obtaining fishing licences in Andalucia. You have to take a written examination that takes 40 days to mark and return(!) You also need personal liability insurance to fish here. This is because the brain dead office boys who regulate fishing in Andalucia have lumped fishing together with gun hunting and the regulations are therefore the same if you want to catch a minnow or shoot a wild boar. Phil recommends Rio Frio and Vinuela, both Andalucian fisheries, without imparting any of this information. Good old Phil blithely tells us “A fishing licence is cheap and easy to obtain”. He even gives us the price. Doesn’t he know that each region of Spain has different laws, different procedures and different charges? He is evidently a happy ignoramos, who hasn’t yet been caught (fines are large). More likely he hasn’t been near these places. Santana’s books are notorious for poor editing, lack of proper research and misinformation. If his is what his book offers, it’s no exception.

  2. A wonderful opportunity to increase tourism one again spoilt by red tape. Most of the people who would want to come from Uk to fish here have more experiance than the spanish i have seen winching out carp on 20 kilo line at El Chorro .Or walking around with a 10 kilo Pike on a string attached to their waist until it becomes uneatable .yes i know you wouldnt eat one in Uk but on the continent they do .

  3. Exactly. Rural tourism is more or less all that Andalucia has got left, now that the building industry has collapsed, fruit and veg fetch very little (this year at least) and the coast is a complete mess as far as tourism goes. The tourist office at Loja (it administers the Rio Frio) have published an interesting text for foreigners (in spanish of course)on

    http://turismoloja.blogspot.com/2008/01/conseguir-licencia-de-pesca-para.html

    My translation of the bit relevant to tourists is as follows:
    It is very easy if you are a member of the EU or of a Spanish region other than Andalusia, the fisherman only needs to send by fax
    1. 1 copy of your national identity document, passport or residence permit
    2. 1 copy of the accreditation document from the authority of the fisherman’s country of origin. (I think this would be a rod licence in the UK)
    Send it to this by FAX to:
    The Ministry of the Environment, Andalusia on (0034) 958 02 60 58
    The license will be issued the same day.
    FOR MORE INFORMATION: Magdalenta Castile (Delegation of Environment. Meeting of Andalusia). Tel 958 02 60 88 or Municipal patronage of Tourism of Loja. turismo@aytoloja.org, tel. (0034) 958 32 39 49/958 32 15 20

    I am following this up because of course they don’t tell you how to pay or how to choose what licence you want. Its typical of Spain – create a beaurocratic nightmare and then invent tortuous ways round it.

  4. Fishing is a great passtime; I have been a game fisherman all my life. Spain’s angling laws are a tad draconian, but don’t you all think that a test is actually a good idea? There are many good anglers, and there are many, many BAD anglers e.g. who leave behind a mess of fishing line and other items that harm the local wildlife, and with otherwise poor fishing skills such as those mentioned above.

    Spain certainly needs to promote its angling a lot more, but making it easier to fish may not be a good idea by itself. Sure, we want to increase tourism, but we don’t want inexperienced anglers to ruin the place either.

    As for rules and regulations, tests and such like, I have never met an angler in Spain with any of these items lol. The ones I’ve met just fish where and when they like – enforcement is scarce.

  5. Hi Fred dont be fooled there are regular patrols at El Choro Malaga province for example. The headline fines are horrendous as always.
    The way to aquire a licence without test if you really want one is to take along your last Environment agency licence from UK it does not matter if it has expired, it shows you had a licence in a different country,and they will except it.Dare i say you can get these online anytime!!!A weekly or monthly licence is cheap and saves spending the next year taking the test.

    The argument regarding bad anglers in UK, the standard of those fishing now is amongst the best i would say .We have been educating yougsters for decades now as junior members of fishing clubs .If you leave rubbish in a pitch on any Uk water you would be black listed and banned .In the case of your type of Angling which is also mine it tends to be a little more unaccompanied and therefore more self disciplined. Yes you will find litter but sadly that is the standards of many people today. Again at El Chorro which is also the drinking water for malaga province the litter problem is massive ,allthough most of it tied neatly in plastic bags before being left behind.

    I would like to see the licence for tourists made more easy to aquire then if you had someone staying it would be a matter of going to an office ,postoffice or shop nearby the venue to obtain one.

  6. El Cinico’s right, Fred. You could probably get away with sea fishing with out a licence but on the Rio Frio a policeman on pop pop bike would get you straight away.

    And Fred, you thought the Spanish fishing test was written by fishermen didn’t you?

    You probably expect (as I did) questios like:

    “On the Rio Frio the daily allowable brown trout “kill” per angler is twenty fish (true). Give three arguments (or even one) for returning a fish alive to the water”

    or

    “Suggest a technique for removing a barbed hook from a fishes mouth without doing it significant damage”

    In fact the test is written by civil servants. Here is a typical question from part one of the fishing competency test(my translation):

    En los embalses, las aguas más profundas se oxigenan gracias(In reservoirs, the deepest water is oxygenated thanks to. . )

    a. Su contacto con la atmósfera.(contact with the atmosphere)

    b. El mezclado con las aguas más superficiales.(mixing with shallower water)

    c. La actividad de las plantas verdes.(the activity of green plants)

  7. I didn’t say the bad anglers were just in the UK; they are everywhere, of course. Also, I was not advocating fishing without a license; I was merely commenting on the realities in Spain. I can’t see someone with a 10 euro tackle set being sued somehow… they’d just run away; I’ve seen it many a times.

    A test for flyfishing is a good idea; it is a true skill and my Father taught me on and off over 20 years. Coarse fishing is a much simpler affair lol.

    Btw, I already have a license for Spain (via the English route) and have fished around Loja a lot, although the UK wins hands down for trout imho – Wales and Scotland especially. Flying back to London soon for my annual trip to Hardy’s on Pall Mall :)

  8. Having just puchased a shore fising license today, which take about 15 minutes at the Malaga agricuture and fishery controlin Ave. Aurora near to Estaction de autobuses.
    You need to go through the security check on the ground floor, walk straight ahead and turn left where you will see a desk marked accordingly.

    1st Class Tierra (beach) cost 5.24 Euros
    2nd Class Embarcacion (boat) cost 10.47 Euros
    3rd Class Colechia (group boat) cost 10.47 Euros
    4th Class Submarina (snorkel/dive) cost 7.83 Euros

    There is no examination and if you are over 65 it is free and the licence is for life.

  9. Hi to all having trawled through countless sites such as this i still find that no one appears to give a clear answer to the question most people are asking which is
    WHERE AND HOW DO I GET HOLD OF A FISHING LICENCE IN SPAIN?
    most sites give appear to give missleading information
    DONT GET ME WRONG BECAUSE I DONT KNOW EITHER but surely somebody must have got one at sometime.
    I live near Antequera and hold a current uk licence. and require a licence for this region.
    do i have to take a test or not?
    do i require insurance as i am led to believe that hunting and fishing are governed by the same body?
    if so where do you get your insurance from?
    can i fill in the forms on line? (i have been told this can be done but how? and where?)
    IF YOU HAVE BEEN THROUGH THE MILL AND GOT A SPANISH FISHING LICENCE PLEASE HELP ME
    ALL I WANT TO DO IS SIT ON THE BANK AND FISH (IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK??)
    i look forward to some interesting replies

    amapolabob

  10. Dear Anglers,
    If you are interested in a new fishing club, near Coín (Málaga) we have carp, barbel and rudd. We have easy access and are based in the grounds of a 3 star rural hotel. Please, look up our site or contact me on 653967607 or 951264005.
    Regards,
    Mike

  11. Help; I was looking forward to two weeks fishiing the Guardiaro River at Jimera De Libar but after reading the comments above I am beginning to wonder if it is worth hauling my tackle from UK. Is freshwater fishing really that difficult to arrange in Malaga province. I of course have my Environment Agency licence plus my local angling club membership card does this make it any easier or should I just forget the whole thing.

  12. I have just got my Andalucian course and trout fishing licence. This is how I did it. I went to the British Consul in Malaga with my current English licence, my passport, my NIE number and my empadronamiento [registration at town hall]. I live here so have these documents. For a 41 euro fee the consul verifies my documnets and issues a certificate saying so. You take this document to the Medio Ambiente [same building in Malaga]and after checking your documents again they give you a 6 gigit number [mine was on a post-it note]! I was told to go and get fishing insurance and then take it with my number to a Bank {eg Caja Mar} and buy my licence. I then went to lie down in a nice hotel. The next day I went to Mapfre for insurance [16 euro a year] and then to the Bank. I chose a 3 year licence plus trout and it cost about 30 euro.

    I know this does not help visitors, but residents with a current UK licence should be able to do this.

    A particular thank you to Mike Taylor and Zulema at Lago El Dorado for helping me.

  13. Well done on getting the license. Riofrio and around are notable venues for trout. They had a lot of damage last year from the rains; no doubt this year as well.

    Be interesting to know if a past valid UK license could be used get you a new Spanish license if you are resident in Spain?

  14. well at last i have my licence as mentioned before take your uk licence invalid or not (mine was 4 weeks out of date) your passport,empardromiento,N.E.I. and go to the consulate in malaga. get your document verified by the consulate (which i thought was a rip off 41 euros to say that you are who you are. as if a passport is not a legal means of identification, along with all the other documents that you have to show your passport to obtain and why the check if your uk licence does not have to be in date) Enough wingeing.
    Then take all doc’s upstairs to the department of fishing office and they will give you a form to take to the bank next door.
    A normal rod licence will cost 5 euros a year and covers you for the region of andalucia not just the province of malaga insurance from the bank is 16 euros but for future reference you can add this to your house insurance for 8 euros a year.
    I live near Antequera and fish with my spanish friends we used to fish in the waters surrounding IZNAJAR but now fishing has been banned due to the mussel farms and fishing is also now banned in embalsa de la vinuela unlike Iznajar there are signs up prohibiting fishing but at either location fish at your peril. we now go to embalsa de ardalles which is part of lake Chorro
    Thats all from me so tight lines and have fun

  15. hi was wondering if fishing was banned on embalse de vinuela ?? as im hoping to visit relatives in the summer this year (2012) and also what i need to do to make sure i dont end up with a big fine by doing so ? please help out
    thanks!!

  16. hi tom
    as far as i am aware all fishing banns have been lifted and in actual fact were impossed due to the infestation of zebra mussels which collect in drainage systems and cause blockages and the mussels miniscule in size attatch themselves to your line etc. can be spread via fishermen using different locations. but if you read my last post you will see the requirements for fishing without being worried about having your gear consficated and a likely fine also note you must have these documents with you when you fish not at home in the drawer. hope you enjoy your fishing.

  17. Keep reading about Rio Guadiaro near Gib for good fishing – be aware its a Protected Reserve area -no fishing – and woe betide you if caught by Guardia Civil – kit confiscated + fine – same as being caught on any freshwater location without license and insurance. Don’t think your Spanish license and insurance protects you!

  18. I held a licence for Spain for 10 years (trout) no problem getting that one until 5 year ago when trying to renew it I was told I had to have a bank account in Spain which would give me a dni number which would enable me to get a new licence.I Duley went to the bank with all the relavent paperwork plus a bank transfer credit note to open the account and was told as I live in Gibraltar (which I do and have done for the last 20 yrs) I had to have residencia (residence ) in Spain to be able to open a bank account and to obtain a licence. Can anyone enlighten me on how to get a licence? After 5yrs of frustration and being blocked at every turn?? Now that I am into forced retirement I would dearly love to cast a fly on tranquil waters.

  19. George, this is what you do. You get on a plane and go Wales or Scotland and enjoy your fishing in a place where they encourage people to enjoy angling and where they have properly invested in this sport. Spain has done everything possible to make angling an impossible task. In a country that thrives on tourism you would have thought Spain would have the brains to implement a straightforward fishing license system, just like every other country in Europe has. But alas no, Spain is brain dead on this issue.

  20. Hi guys.
    I am currently in the process of obtaining my Andalucian fishing license. After about 2 months of searching endlessly online for information i gave up and went to a “Gestoria” and for a small fee (depending on which gestoria you use) they were able to find all the necessary info for me, and i speak fluent Spanish and i still had to get help.
    I had a choice between doing an exam for which no information is given and therefore i have no idea what is going to be asked in the exam. Also the exam is in 2 different time periods during the year, theres an exam in march and another in september, it costs about 30 euros but is in Spanish, there is no exam in English, (I asked). if you want to take the test in march you have to sign up long in advance.
    The other option is to take a course (again in Spanish, also the option i chose) These courses are run by authorised fishing clubs and the course i signed up for costs 50 euros and is 5 days of 5 hours (5-10pm). These courses can be found all over Andalucia but not all fishing clubs run them. I have to drive an hour and a half to get to mine each day.

    My advise for anyone looking to get their fishing liscense is to go to their local “gestoria” and ask them to find out all the info for them.
    Maybe in places like Malaga these courses are available in English but i dont know.

    Hope this helped, if so see you on the water!!!!

  21. Hey guys!!!
    so i finally got a freshwater fishing licensesorted out. 25 hour course in seville but it was worth it. if you have any basic knowledge of spanish it really is as easy as anything. the course i did was with a fishing club and they basically said that as long as you turn up every day to the course you will get your license. i now have to wait 2 weeks for the paperwork to go through then i go to the bank and pay, you also need insurance to fish in freshwater in spain which costs about 10 euros.

    if anyone is interested, saltwated fishing licenses are much easier to come by, all you need to do is go to your local environment office fill out a form and pay 6 euros (no course or exam required). Or some tackle shops will sort all your paperwork out for you for a small fee. The tackleshop “PescaMar” in Torre Del Mar in Malaga sorted out my license in 24 hours.

    There are many fishing clubs in the malaga area that do he freshwater fishing courses, but you may need to enquire where they are available in English.

    Good Luck Guys

  22. One of my friends who fishes the inland lakes had his tackle confiscated last month, and was also given a 100 euro fine. He was told that his license was invalid, and that was after doing a course in Granada and taking out insurance, so watch out. Unless the Medio Ambiente department validate your license I’d be suspicious.

  23. On the course you learn that you fishing tackle cant be taken away from you anymore, that was how it used to be but its not legal anymore, your friend should contact his local police station or “Seprona” office, (Seprona are in charge of fish and game in andalucia) and request his rod back, as for the validity of his license who knows, but if he is unsure of the validity he can get it checked, if there was some mistake he can appeal against the fine. If he was stopped for ground baiting then that is something completely different, in Spain you can be fined for ground baiting o baiting in general, for this you need to be a member of a fishing club with a differnt piece of paperwork. (yes!!! more paperwork!!!!)

    Your friend should find put who took his fishing tackle away and appeal against it as this is now illegal practice on the part of the authorities.

  24. Also anyone thinking of doing the exam for their freshwater fishing licence and have any knowledge of spaninsh should try to read this. its a PDF document and it basically covers all you need to learn to pass your exam. i read it before doing my course and it helped alot even though the course is much easier than the exam, it just gives you the oportunity to translate what you dont understand in advance, rather than having to translate in the moment

    http://www.bubok.es/libros/14484/PESCA-CONTINENTAL-EN-ANDALUCIA

    good luck guys

  25. Anna, this is a man’s sport – you wouldn’t understand all the complex terminology involved ;)

    Appealing anything in Spain is problematic, your best bet in Spain is to fish privately with a club, as Brendan suggests. It’s a pity Spain does not get on top of this issue, as it would be a real tourist attraction if managed correctly.

  26. Read all the comments with interest. I live near Coin and want to start fishing again after a break of a few years. Are there any fishing clubs in the region I could join? I am interested in lake, river, beach and boat (sea) fishing. So a chat with anglers in this area would be a great help.

    I know of Laguna lake (the nearest to me). El Doroda lake (sadly now closed) and heard of el chorro and rio frio.

    Then of course I would have to obtain the licences too.

  27. Well guys Iv’e read all the posts,also tried to find info on fishing here in Spain on line form local authorities and sadly Iv’e given up.much to much red tape, I’m now going to visit Portugal where fishing is available to all and requiring licenses is simply a few hours drive so its weekends away

  28. Just completed the course in Malaga for freshwater fishing licence. Started Friday afternoon, spread over three days culminating in written exam today (Sunday). Although I do understand Spanish, the course tutor translated everything and the exam was a multiple choice test which was easy to complete with the tutors help.
    The course cost €50.
    We now have to wait up to 6 weeks for the registration number and licence to arrive. I have to take out insurance (approx. €10) and also pay the licence fee (approx. €45 for 5 years).
    Then I can fish legally and without risk of heavy fines.
    These courses are held at various times of the year and in various locations by ASAJA .
    See rhe following
    the following link for application form and course location /dates.

  29. just finished the first ever fishing course in andalucia as from today every fisher person will have to do the course ,no licence without course, fine 60 /400 e for fishing without licence persons with current licence exempt unless guadia in bad mood ,course at present lasts 3 days, will get reduced in time as they get there act together good luck you,ll need it

  30. I’m afraid license is required

    “http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/medioambiente/site/pcp/menuitem.0b335ea304f9ebac542535305510e1ca/?vgnextoid=5fbebaca2da5c210VgnVCM1000001325e50aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f14cbaca2da5c210VgnVCM1000001325e50aRCRD”

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